Terms of Engagement: Re-Defining Identity and Infertility On-line


  • Elzbieta Korolczuk Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg and Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden




Infertility, identity, boundary work, on-line activism, assisted reproductive tech-nologies


This article focuses on the identity work that takes place on the biggest Polish Internet forum for infertile people (www.nasz-bocian.pl). It is an example of a wider trend of “digital groupings created by and for those who struggle with the physical and emotional burden of a disease or disability, and through blogs, chats and forums contact others who have similar experiences, while staying anonymous. Participating in on-line discussions often leads to various forms of social engagement, both on-line and off-line. The sick, their family members, partners and friends cooperate in order to change the public discourse, as well as the regulation and financing of research and the treatment of certain diseases. Emergence and proliferation of such digital groupings raise questions such as: what ails these communities? How the collective identity is constructed on-line? This article examines “boundary work, which is a specific element of collective identity construction processes. The analysis concerns how the borders are established between the different sub-groups within the digital community, and how this process involves producing novel forms of identity based on a fragmented “socially legitimized childlessness. It focuses on a sub-forum” Conscious Childlessness and is based on qualitative analysis of the posts placed there. This sub-forum was established by users who do not necessarily share the dominant collective identity around which the social mobilization on infertility in Poland coalesces. They refuse to see themselves as sick people, or as patients, attempting to construct a new collective identity based on the idea of choice and the pursuit of happiness.


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How to Cite

Korolczuk, E. (2014) “Terms of Engagement: Re-Defining Identity and Infertility On-line”, Culture Unbound, 6(2), pp. 431–449. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146431.



Theme: Social Movements - Ritual Space and Media